Wakeup squall for classic rockers

Upstairs, Overlooking (Tooth & Nail Records)

Joe Christmas

By Robert Gruber

Joe Christmas is the kind of band I'd like to play for all those boring old farts out there who still insist that all the "good music" pretty much dried up after Woodstock. You know the type — the ones who have their radio dial welded to the classic rock station. Far from proving them wrong, however, Joe Christmas would offend them just enough to galvanize them in their Neanderthalic stance. And I say, so what?!

Joe Christmas sounds like the best ot alternative rock's best, circa l985, back when SST and Twin/Tone were the cool labels and bands like the Replacements, Husker Du and Dinosaur Jr were becoming critical raves. Exquisitely sloppy, noisy, laden with feedback and droning guitar lines, a cursory listen might cause one to overlook the tightly locking rhythm section that holds the songs together. One might also miss the way the singer's voice (reminiscent of a younger J. Mascis) is broken in all the right spots, or how the seemingly random sounding guitar noises are always in the right key.

Over time, songs like "Econo," "Yellow Umbrella" and "Bedroom Suite" work their way inextricably into your cerebellum. "Coupleskate" is a sweetly nostalgic look at teenage roller rink days, with lines like "All the girls and the boys/'Dressed in their coolest clothes/Goin' round and round and round/Night Ranger playin' on the stereo." These days, it just doesn't get any better than this.